Loading articles...

Conservatives' O'Toole talks B.C. crises, vaccines, housing with NEWS 1130

Last Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 10:01 am PDT

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole speaks in Ottawa, Ontario on Sunday August 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As Election Day nears, we’re catching up with Canada’s federal party leaders to help you make an informed choice on Sept. 20.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole joined NEWS 1130 Tuesday morning to talk about a number of subjects, including COVID-19 vaccines, housing, and the negativity much of the overall election campaign has taken on.

Listen to the full interview with Terry Schintz:

Read more: NDP’s Jagmeet Singh talks housing, vaccine protests, opioid crisis with NEWS 1130

Terry Schintz: The campaign into the final stretch, it is crunch time. How are you feeling about things? It’s very close.

Erin O’Toole: “I’m feeling really good. We have a plan, Canada’s Recovery Plan, that we launched in the first full day of the campaign focused on jobs, accountability, mental health, being more prepared for a pandemic, and getting our finances into order. People are responding very well to it, including in British Columbia, and we have to decide, do we reward Mr. Trudeau for calling a $600 million election in a pandemic? Do we demand better in terms of ethics and these sorts of things? So that’s going to be the question in the next few days is who do you trust? And I think Mr. Trudeau has broken the trust of so many people and it’s time for change.”

Now you’ve used that line a couple of times and I’d like to go beyond that. Quite suddenly the campaign has taken on a bit of a stark, personal, and negative tone and some are suggesting, you’re spending more time attacking the real or perceived shortcomings of Trudeau, than you are outlining how you will make our lives better. How do you respond to that?

“Well that’s — people haven’t been paying attention to the race, Terry. I’ve had 30 days of talking about policies in our policy platform, Canada’s Recovery Plan that we want to do to get the country back on its feet, to help families, to fight the housing crisis in B.C. It’s been Mr. Trudeau that in the first week was caught by Twitter misleading people the first time ever in Canadian political history. Miss Wilson-Raybould’s book reminds us that he tried to force her to lie in the SNC Lavalin scandal. He’s been flailing around making up things about me, thinking that he’s still running against another leader six years ago. I’ve got a positive vision but in the final week I am inviting people to say, do you want to reward someone who’s had constant ethical investigation, that launched this $600 million election, just because he thought he could secure a majority? I think it’s time for a change. I’ve got the plan and the track record and it’s a new Conservative Party that I want people to take a look at to secure our future.”

We’re seeing these anti-vaxx protests across the country. As you know, some of them have been targeting hospitals and health care centers. What is your message to those folks and to the health care workers, and millions of Canadians who pay for and count on the health care system?

“While the frontlines of our health care system, the nurses, doctors, PHW techs are our heroes. Eighteen months we’ve relied on them and these protests, this harassment is completely unacceptable. We have a plan to actually make it illegal to blockade public institutions, things that are there for the public good, like hospital. It’s completely unacceptable and I want the frontline health care workers to know that one part of our plan that we launched right on the first day of this whole campaign is a $60 billion, once in a generation investment in our public health system to help the provinces give relief to our frontlines who are fatigued and to build up the system where we saw the gaps emerge in COVID-19. We have the most significant investment in public health in this election and that will help our frontline.”

We have an issue with vaccination despite the fact that the majority of Canadians are vaccinated. One of the protesters yesterday told our reporters, ‘This is not real, this pandemic is not a real thing.’ How do you respond to people who share that view?

“Well, I tell that person they’re wrong. My wife and I had COVID-19. Right after I became leader in the second wave, we had COVID-19. It’s why we were very public and we, we released video of our vaccination process, why I worked with other leaders to promote vaccines. They’re safe, effective, and they’re critical in this fight. What we need is a real discussion about COVID, how we can use vaccines, rapid testing, masking, distancing, how we can work together to fight this crisis. It’s not the time for division, it’s not the time for an election, it’s the time to come together and rally behind beating COVID.”

We’re going to move on to the housing crisis because there’s lots of topics and not a lot of time. There is a housing crisis in Metro Vancouver, likely right across the country. An untold number of people, many through no fault of their own, have found themselves out of a home, locally. You’ve got a plan here, you’re talking about cracking down on foreign investment, creating over a million homes through various means over three years, I think it is. Realistically, how much of a dent will that put into that problem?

“It will put a significant dent. As you know Terry, the Lower Mainland is the epicenter of the housing crisis and it’s gotten worse over six years of Mr. Trudeau — it hasn’t gotten better. And we’ve been actually proposing a ban on foreign, non-resident buying for some time. Mr. Trudeau has fought against it. The one per cent fee that they’re putting in hasn’t done anything. So that’s one thing. We are going to free up federal lands, we’re going to accelerate transit money, particularly where it can improve density, we’re going to modernize mortgages, allow first-time buyers to have longer terms of interest rates, we’re going to make it more easy for people to get first-time homebuyer protection. What we have to do is, the federal government has to play its role, the municipalities and the provinces do as well, but I’m not going to give up on a generation of Canadians that need to have the same ability to own their own home, and we have to make sure that we protect people’s home equity. So Mr. Trudeau his team has been talking about taxing the primary residence home sale — we would never allow that to happen as a Conservative government.”

The B.C. government, as you know Mr. O’Toole, has taken a number of measures to try and get the housing situation under control, but you could argue it’s still as challenging as ever to try and find housing in Metro Vancouver. What would your plan do that is above and beyond what the province has already done?

“We’re going to have 15 per cent of federal land and holding offered up for supply — that’s something we can do directly. And we do want to accelerate approvals and building at both the municipal and provincial level. So we’ve said, if you want to see infrastructure funds flow, let’s partner to make sure transit investments, for example, accelerate more density. We also want to make sure, and we’re incentivizing more building of purpose-built rental housing, this is another area that we don’t see enough of. We see a rental housing crisis, not just purchasing of housing. So we need to do that and part of what we’re going to do is we’re going to double the [inaudible] where there’s a housing crisis, a cost of living crisis, people at the lower income margins are underwater and so we’re doubling that Canada workers benefit. It’s going to give thousands of dollars to families that are struggling and we need to make sure that they have a strong economic recovery after COVID and that’s what our plan represents.”

Climate change a major issue for British Columbians, very important when you talk to British Columbians about what matters to them, for some in your party is sensitive topic, for sure. Experts say climate change is connected to the extreme weather we’ve seen out here on the West Coast. Lytton got up to, what, 49.6 degrees and then it had that devastating fire. What is your message to British Columbians who perhaps suspect this is not something that is that important to your party?

“Well it is important and another reason we shouldn’t have had an election, the forest fires in B.C. Mr. Trudeau completely ignored that when he called this election. And they are tied — adverse weather events are tied to climate change. And Terry, we had to rebuild some trust on this issue, I’ve been very honest, which is why we put out our Climate Change plan in April. It prices carbon, it has a plan to meet our Paris commitments, and to have a strong economic rebound after COVID. In fact, we partnered with a Vancouver climate change consultancy firm to make sure that we could have a serious and effective plan to lower our emissions — this is important to me as a father of young kids — and to make sure that we don’t drive away jobs and investments. So our pricing of carbon, our low carbon savings account, our electric vehicle standard, our renewable natural gas standard — it’s a very comprehensive plan and I was in Vancouver on the weekend, it was very well received by the folks we were talking to.”

We’re very short on time and we appreciate your time. If you win, and you could, what is the first thing you would do as prime minister?

“We have to get people working again and get the million jobs we’re pledging started. We also have to buttress up our health care system. So I’ve said in the first 100 days, I would meet with the premiers and start this historic $60 billion 10 year investment to give our frontlines relief, to help with long term care and all the work provinces need to do. We have to work together to overcome COVID-19 and its aftermath and that’s what I will do as prime minister — bring people together not drive them apart.”